Friday 26 February 2016

The Conversation

I recently published an article in The Conversation with my PhD supervisor, Natalya Lusty, and have re-posted it below to give you an idea of just what I get up to during my PhD life:

Ethical fashion shoppers are scorned by others – and the headlines don't help

The Journal of Consumer Psychology has been having a bit of a fashion moment, after publishing a study that prompted a slew of media coverage over the past few weeks.

The headlines lashed many shoppers' attitudes as “ugly” and “wilfully ignorant”, and detailed how most people quickly turn into lazy and judgemental haters when asked to give their verdict on “boring and unfashionable” ethical shoppers.

While this all makes for good headlines, it’s not particularly constructive because these stories tend to reinforce the divide between “ethical” and “non-ethical” consumers. If we want more people to shop ethically, it’s not very helpful to cast judgement on the “ordinary” shopping public whom ethical campaigners are trying to reach.

What did the research actually say, and how can we move past the sensational headlines towards encouraging everyone to shop more ethically?

It doesn’t have to be dull to dress sustainably. Kowtow

The study, led by Ohio State University consumer psychologist Daniel Zane, builds on earlier research that found most shoppers prefer to be wilfully ignorant about purchases.

People will use information about labour practices or environmental impact if it is provided, but if it’s not they won’t actively seek out this information before buying something.

The new research found that not only are this group of consumers wilfully ignorant about their purchases, in this case jeans and a backpack, but they also negatively judge those who do seek out ethical products. Participants in the study described ethically-minded shoppers as “boring”, “odd” and “unfashionable”.

What’s more, these wilfully ignorant consumers also judge companies that act unethically less harshly after they themselves have judged the ethical shoppers, and are less inclined to act ethically with respect to future purchases.

This behaviour is attributed to social comparison theory. In essence, the consumer is acting in self-defence so as not to view themselves as inferior to ethical consumers. It’s not that they don’t care about ethical issues, but when they are reminded that they have not acted in accordance with these values while others did, they feel bad about themselves and effectively lash out at those who made them feel that way.

However, the researchers conclude on a positive note: if information is made readily available to shoppers, they will be more likely to make an ethical purchase. This has the flow-on effect that they will be less inclined to lash out at ethical consumers and more likely to to change their overall consumption habits.

Ethical and chic. KITX


Beyond the headlines

Let’s have another look at the media coverage cited above. To their credit, most of the articles included plenty of detail about the study. But given that the average reader spends less than 15 seconds reading an online article (and that’s if they even bother to read it before sharing it online), these headlines could be doing more harm than good.

The danger is that readers will interpret these headlines as additional negative representations of their unethical consumer behaviour, leading to yet more of the same “lashing out” documented in the study itself. The headlines also perpetuate the outdated assumption that ethical or sustainable fashion is unfashionable or boring.

There is still much to be understood about ethical consumption, particularly in relation to fashion. It’s fairly well documented that guilt- and fear-based messages aren’t effective in getting people to change their behaviour. And despite what the new research suggests in regard to consumers’ desire for ethical information, it’s also the case that extra information does not always lead to action.

Clothes are about making a personal statement.

What needs to be understood better are the other factors impacting purchase decisions, including availability, price, identity, time, lifestyle, and brand loyalty. When considering fashion in particular, a number of specific considerations come into play.

Guilt does not sell fashion – desire does. Education and awareness of fashion’s ethical issues need to be paired with an acknowledgement that clothing purchases are connected to pleasure, cost, and individual self-expression. This approach is likely to be more successful than messages based on guilt or denigration.

The good news is there is more and more sustainable fashion in the marketplace, which helps to overcome the stigma that ethically sourced clothes are ugly or too expensive. The many small start-up labels are increasingly being joined by larger fashion houses and department stores in responding to the demand.


Consumers aren’t shopping in a vacuum. They can only buy what is available from the fashion industry, distributed by retailers, and made affordable by appropriate trade agreements. And ultimately, the clothes have to meet shoppers' desire for a particular self-image or the pleasure of owning a particular garment.

Until all of this is better understood, it’s probably counter-productive to keep pointing the finger at “ignorant consumers” or perpetuating the myth of ethical fashion as “boring” and “unfashionable” – even if it does make for an entertaining headline.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Friday 19 February 2016

changemaker : natalie kiryk

I recently posted an image of my favourite item this summer - a stunning Lisa Brown flowy top that I found at the Second Loves stall at the Manly Markets in December. The woman behind the shop - Nat - told me she was traveling around Australia in her van, taking her collection to various markets around the country over the summer. Living the dream!

A delightful stall set up with Nat's van in the background.
Second Loves will be back in Manly tomorrow, 20 February.

Ever since I met the charming Nat and saw her beautiful collection of pre-loved and vintage clothing she curated, I've been keeping my eye on her website. The collection is inspired by:

Friends, travel, the ocean, folklore, rock + roll, music festivals, art, foreign films, surf culture, far away places, other cultures, mother nature, the open road, white space, crochet + lace, rainbows, being by the seaside, being in the mountains, the wild, anything vintage and conscious consuming xx

A quick look around the site and you'll see she has the boho-luxe vibe nailed. These are quality pieces, so don't come expecting bargain basement prices, but instead well-looked after pieces, many with incredible detail and a unique style.

I recently interviewed Nat to find out a little bit more about what makes Second Loves so fabulous.

What inspired you to start Second Loves?
It all started with surf checks on a Saturday morning and noticing all the amazing garage sales happening around me. Of course I couldn’t pass them without stopping, and it has become a ritual for me every weekend. 

I was also inspired by the eclectic taste of people in Byron Bay. From the creative locals, travelers and designers to the vintage collectors, there is a constant abundance of amazing garage sales. I also love markets, op shops, and hunting for treasure wherever the road takes me.


How do you find such gorgeous and unique pieces?
A lot of the time I feel that things find me. There's no real secret to finding the unique pieces, it's simply a part of my lifestyle and has become ingrained in me over time. 

Since I was young I have always been a lover of style + vintage fashion and enjoyed the hunt for special items. The more you do it the more places you find and people you network with. I love meeting other creatives and market goers.

What are the most popular items that you sell?
I sell such a wide selection of items that I couldn’t say I sell one more than the other. But if I had to choose. . . customers really love local Byron Bay designer items, and a beautiful dress is always hard for a girl to pass up.

What do you love most about what you do?
I love passing on the message of my passion for conscious consuming. There are incredibly classic pieces out there of excellent quality, and all with such character. I don't need to buy anything brand new anymore - okay, maybe my underwear! This philosophy effects all areas of my life. My house is fully furnished with all things secondhand and vintage, from the pillows on the couch to the organic sheets on my bed {from a garage sale!} to the cutlery and pans in my kitchen. Also my surfboards, cars and it goes on. Most things can be bought secondhand and these days so very readily available in amazing condition.

I also really love being able to travel Australia in my van, working on Second Loves and living on the road. How stoked I am to have set up a little business that allows me to travel to new places, see old friends and meet new, all whilst working along the way. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be able to enjoy living simply and consciously on the road. Every day is a new adventure and learning curve.

Thank you Nat! 
Keep finding us those vintage gems and loving your journey.
I look forward to meeting you some where on this journey.. maybe on your trip to Byron.. I have a little studio space where you can shop by appointment. Or at a market near you.

Find Second Loves online, on Facebook and Instagram

And if you're in Sydney, head over to the Manly Village School Market tomorrow, 20 February, from 8am to see Nat and her collection in person. I'll be there!

Friday 12 February 2016

film review : cowspiracy

I know, I know, Cowspiracy came out in 2014, it's not exactly new, but I suspect there's a few of you out there who haven't seen it. Am I right?

The film is pitched "As eye opening as Blackfish and as inspiring as An Inconvenient Truth" and documents one man's journey into understanding the environmental impact of large-scale factory farming. We follow Kip while he learns more of the facts and approaches many institutions - including leading advocacy groups - to ask why more isn't being done to change a system that so negatively impacts the climate, water use, deforestation and ocean health.

While watching the film I felt an overwhelming urge to call Kip (our protagonist documentarian) because I connected so much with his story. I, too, was greatly impacted by seeing An Inconvenient Truth, and adopted all sorts of environmentally-friendly changes in my lifestyle (as readers of Sustainability with Style know). And I, too, was floored when I learned about the devastating environmental toll of livestock production as it is practiced today, and wondered why it wasn't receiving more airtime.

I also experienced the terribly uncomfortable 'Beefgate' weekend, when I learned firsthand that asking people to change their food habits is 'no go' zone of environmental activism. As a recap, talking with loved ones about environmental changes went roughly like this:

Have you changed your lightbulbs? Easy!
Why don't you bring your own bags to the grocery store? Done!
How about you drive one day less a week? I can do that!
Are you recycling properly? You betcha!
Let's not eat any beef this weekend? How dare you ask me that!

That reaction took me by surprise, but also intrigued me enough to make it a focus of my Masters research. 

The reasons why people react this way are varied and complex, and relate to things like their personal identity, wanting to maintain a positive self-image, health and fitness concerns, cultural identity, and freedom.  The notion that we are free to make our own choices in Western democratic societies is a powerful one, and food appears to be one of the things we cherish the right to choose, right up there with religion (and fashion! as I'm finding out).

There are countless reasons to eat more plants and less meat - health, environment, animal rights, food security, the well-being of our fellow humans in developing nations - so if you're a meat-loving carnivore, you can start by dabbling. Start with Meatless Mondays, work up to being a Weekday Vegetarian, and opt for meat that is organic, free range or otherwise sustainably reared.

In the meantime, 'beef' up on more information by watching Cowspiracy - it's on Netflix now, or you can download it for $5 on their own website. (Oh, and eco-hunk Leonardo DiCaprio is an Executive Producer, as if you needed another reason to watch.) Here are a couple screenshots:

Be prepared, sometimes the information feels a bit 'sensationalised' and overly 'preachy' - which I know we all hate! (And I realise I'm on the verge of doing myself here, so I'm going to wrap it up.) The statistics are valid, but Kip's impassioned tone can feel a little irritating at times. I recommend you push on, there are brilliant interviews with leaders in food and sustainability, and you'll walk away armed with more data than you know what to do with.

Next week I'm participating in a Veg*n Sustainability workshop at the University of Sydney, where we'll discuss why it's so hard to talk about changing meat consumption practices, and where we can go from here. Watch this space! 

And if it turns out we really can't kick our meat habit, some folks are dabbing with growing meat in a lab - not my personal choice, but I admire their ingenuity.

Have you made changes to your diet in the interest of the environment? What has been easiest? Or hardest? I'd love to hear from you!


* * * *

In the interest of transparency: I eat meat about once a week, and beef 3 or 4 times a year. The vast majority of the time the meat is organic and free range. Yes, this makes it more expensive, but it also makes it more nutritious and softer on the planet. And because it's a 'sometimes food', I don't mind paying the higher price.

Friday 5 February 2016

cast your vote for the future of fashion

The Global Change Award asked the world for bold ideas to make change. And that is what we received. In these five winners I see innovation that can lead to the possible solutions for a sustainable fashion future.
Ms. Franca Sozzani
Editor in Chief of Vogue Italia

This week the H&M Conscious Foundation opened voting to the public on five finalists in the Global Change Awards. You can cast your vote until 7 February.

Over 2700 entries were received for the competition, and an expert panel* narrowed down to these finalists, all of whom demonstrate truly inspired thinking:

The Polyester Digester - using microbes to recycle waste polyester textile

100% Citrus - creating new textile out of citrus juice production byproducts

Making waste-cotton new - conversion of waste cotton into new textile

Growing Textile Fibre Underwater - using algae to make renewable textiles 

 An online market for textile leftovers - marketplace for industrial upcycling

Consider your vote carefully! The fancy 1 million euro prize will be distributed amongst the finalists depending on the popular vote. The website includes additional information on each of the above ideas to help you make your decision.

All finalists also receive mentorship with the H&M Conscious Foundation, Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm as part of a yearlong accelerator program to help get their ventures off the ground.
* * * *
The awards were created to inspire textile technology to help close the loop of fast fashion - in other words, recycling innovations to keep used clothing and textiles out of the landfill. 

And while the jury may still be out if so much attention should be placed on textile innovation in the face of excess fashion consumption in the fast fashion industry - including in my own mind - voting still closes on 7 February.

Head to the Global Change Award website to learn more about each of these incredible ideas and help reward these very clever textile innovators who may just be designing the future of fashion.

* * * *

*Expert panel members:
  • Dr. Michael Braungart: Academic Chair “Cradle to Cradle for Innovation and Quality” at Erasmus University Rotterdam; Professor at Leuphana University Lüneburg; Scientific Director of EPEA Hamburg.
  • Prof. Rebecca Earley: Professor in Sustainable Textile and Fashion Design at University of the Arts London and Director of its Textile Futures Research Centre.
  • Mr. Ma Jun: Director, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, China.
  • Ms. Eva Kruse: CEO, Danish Fashion Institute; CEO, Copenhagen Fashion Week.
  • Prof. Johan Rockström: Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Professor in Environmental Science with emphasis on water resources and global sustainability at Stockholm University.
  • Mr. Ellis Rubinstein: President and CEO, The New York Academy of Sciences.
  • Ms. Franca Sozzani: Editor in Chief of Vogue Italia.
  • Ms. Amber Valletta: Supermodel, actress & entrepreneur.

Monday 1 February 2016

bombah point redux

A couple of weekends ago I had the absolute pleasure to return to one of my all time favourite places - Bombah Point Eco Cottages in the Myall Lakes National Park.

My in-laws were visiting from the US and we wanted to take them somewhere special. They have been to Australia many times since my hubby and I moved here in 2004, and this visit they opted to not fly anywhere besides Sydney, which made Bombah Point the perfect destination for a long weekend.

Luxurious eco cottages, a stone's throw to the lakes, a short drive to the beaches, and complete peace.

I love feeding the chooks! (I'm such an urbanite...)

I wasn't sure if they'd love it as much as I do, but on the final day I caught my mother-in-law with a small frown saying, "I don't want to leave".

My sentiments exactly.

Below is a copy of the blog post I wrote last year in case you missed it.


8 April 2015
Over the long Easter weekend my hubby and I treated ourselves to a little eco-luxury at the Bombah Point Eco Cottages on the edge of Myall Lakes National Park. It was heavenly. 

This is my idea of camping. I can be out in the bush or at the beach all day,
but still come back to a solid building with a bed and running water.

I've known about these cottages for a couple of years and was thrilled to spend a long weekend amongst the trees. Winner of the 2012 Green Lifestyle Award for Travel-Hotel/Resort, these cottages are tucked between Seal Rocks and Hawks Nest/Tea Gardens, and close to countless activities. We spent a day hiking, a morning kayaking, and an afternoon exploring the nearby beaches.

The view from Dark Point